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The Light At The End Of The Tunnel, Yosemite

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 12 May 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

A while ago I privately vowed to curtail my Tunnel View images; not because I'm unhappy with them, or because I've run out (not even close, I'm afraid), but because the world just has so many of them. The fact is, while I visit Tunnel View multiple times on each trip, I rarely photograph here anymore. But every once in a while I see something that causes me to raise my camera, and who can resist a rainbow?

At the end of March I conducted the first of two 2010 Yosemite spring workshop targeting, among other things, the full moon and Lower Yosemite Fall moonbow. We were fortunate on the first night to photograph both, because shortly after our moonbow shoot, clouds rolled in and treated Yosemite Valley to several days of wind and rain. The photography wasn't always comfortable, but we had some fantastic opportunities.

On our final day the storm hunkered down in the valley, dumping buckets and obscuring every prominent feature with dense, gray clouds. Rain is a prime prime ingredient in my recipe for good photography, but when the clouds drop into Yosemite Valley and the rain falls so hard that it's impossible to fire off a single frame without large drops freckling the front of the lens, it's time to sit tight and wait for the inevitable clearing.

After circling the valley once and finding no sign of a break, I brought my group to Tunnel View to wait things out. Tunnel View is my default choice for sitting out a storm, for several reasons: storms usually clear first at Tunnel View, the clearing there is always spectactular, and I can check the National Weather Service radar on my iPhone (I'm pretty sure this was a big reason Ansel Adams preferred Tunnel View too).

We parked and watched the downpour through fogged windows, but after a few minutes the little boy in me took over and I just had to go stand in the rain. I'd recently outfitted myself with a head-to-toe rain ensemble that included waterproof boots, rain pants, and a hooded parka, and as anyone who has ever been a child knows, there's nothing quite like standing in a downpour and staying completely dry. My camera and tripod joined me, donning a less elegant but no less effective garbage bag.

So there I stood in saturated bliss, with the rain showing no sign of relenting, and me showing no signs of caring. Imagine my surprise when literally without warning the clouds lifted and the sky brightened, revealing Bridalveil Fall, the faint outline of El Capitan, and a vivid rainbow etched across the granite sky. Fortunately I'd already metered the scene so my exposure was close; all I needed to do was tear off the bag, bump my shutter speed, compose, and shoot. I got off maybe three frames before the sky darkened and the clouds dropped to absorb the scene as quickly as it had appeared. It all happened so fast that I questioned whether I'd imagined the whole thing.

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Beautiful rainbow ! I love the mist effect ! Have a nice day Gary :)

12 May 2010 7:26am

Self-Indulgence from Chicagoland, United States

Clearly you had to work for your photo here and were a more prepared than the rest of the people that stayed in the car but it always amazes me how these photos look as though they were taken casually, lazily even but you detail having only seconds to pull off a shot. Here you got three but I guess I'm saying the speed at which you pull this off seriously reflects patience, skill and in this case a little luck. I know you're very familiar with this area and weather patterns as well but is it always a matter of waiting long enough or how do you know when it's time to scrap an idea and move on.

12 May 2010 12:52pm

@Self-Indulgence: Thanks, Kristen. In addition to simply being prepared for rain, it helped a lot that I am so familiar with Tunnel View. I can find my TV composition in a heartbeat, and honestly, since there aren't a lot of foreground possibilities there, the choices are pretty straightforward--most great TV shots aren't particularly creative compositions, they're variations on the standard compositions with beautiful conditions thrown in. So not only does my familiarity help me find my composition quickly, it also helps me anticipate the best conditions. I honestly wasn't expecting anything to materialize, I was just enjoying standing in the rain. But I figured while I stand there I may as well get everything ready in case something does happen--that's just a habit.

Julie from Easton, United States

What a nice catch, rainbows are just so beautiful and you caught this one very well!

12 May 2010 3:55pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Very beautiful, and so unique with the low clouds and fog with a rainbow!

12 May 2010 7:44pm

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

This waterfall is so impressive, so expressive in a way...

12 May 2010 8:02pm

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

This is another tunnel view image to add to your collection, and a beautifully soft and colorful one too.

13 May 2010 12:42am

Julie Brown from Indianapolis, United States

Gary, this is a very cool shot, and I love the backstory!

13 May 2010 1:23am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

very dramatic and moody scene and you even got the rainbow in there - excellent photo!

13 May 2010 3:25am

Shelle from Washington State, United States

Love this!

14 May 2010 2:33pm

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Beautiful. I love rainbows and this oe is great, as well as the composition with a fantastic light that lead our eyes to the rock in the right were the rainbow lands.

18 May 2010 11:33am

Claus Petersen from Herfølge, Denmark

Did you find a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow :-) ?

27 Jul 2010 5:49pm

@Claus Petersen: It sure felt like I did. :)